Editorial vs. Commercial Photoshoots: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published August 11, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A shoot is a brief interaction between photographers and subjects with the purpose of creating art. Photographers can work with people and objects, and their paid shoots are often editorial or commercial. If you're interested in becoming a photographer, learning more about various types of photoshoots can be beneficial.

In this article, we explain what an editorial shoot is, detail what a commercial shoot is, compare the two and offer helpful tips for becoming a photographer.

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What is an editorial photoshoot?

An editorial shoot is a process through which a photographer takes photos with the purpose of telling a story. Editorial shoots often function best in magazines and other publications and can focus on food, fashion decor and architecture. Editorial photography can be useful in textbooks, essays, educational content, documentaries, newspapers, online articles and magazine articles. This type of photography is rarely for advertising purposes, and advertisers can't use it without permission and licensure from the photographer. These are some steps you can follow to plan for an editorial shoot:

  1. Develop an idea for the photos: The first step in planning for an editorial shoot is brainstorming the ideas for the shoot. It can be helpful to consider stories or content that inspires you, like influential people, fashion, food or art.

  2. Review other shoots: Consider reviewing other recent or famous shoots that cover the same materials to find more inspiration. You can also do this to ensure your photos are original and unique compared to existing content.

  3. Create a plan for the shoot: Write a pitch for the shoot, including information about your purpose, inspiration, budget and intentions. Update and polish your portfolio before presenting your pitch.

  4. Pitch your idea to publications: Identify potential publications where you can pitch your shoot. Send emails or letters that clearly outline your pitch and credentials as a photographer.

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What is a commercial photoshoot?

A commercial shoot is a photo-taking event to capture photos that advertisers and other professionals can use to promote services and products. Commercial photography often focuses on the product or sponsor and may require more time, equipment and setup than editorial shoots. Professionals can use commercial photography for advertising campaigns, marketing materials, packaging, book covers and entertainment promotions. These are some steps you can follow to plan for a commercial shoot:

  1. Create a portfolio and professional profile: Before seeking work as a commercial photographer, it can be a good idea to develop a portfolio. This can help you show potential clients your skills and previous work.

  2. Communicate with advertising agencies: Contact commercial photography agencies, marketing firms and advertisers to ask about potential work. By creating professional relationships, you can improve your chances of receiving requests for proposals.

  3. Respond quickly to requests for proposals: A request for proposal is an invitation from a client to a photographer asking for an outline of how the photographer may plan and complete the shoot. By responding quickly and professionally to these requests, you may improve your chances of receiving the offer for the job.

  4. Draft potential budgets for each shoot: Firms and agencies often prefer photographers who understand the costs of shooting and can draft a budget. Consider equipment, venue, time and subjects when creating the shoot budget.

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Editorial vs. commercial photoshoots

Because editorial and commercial photography differ from one another, many photographers may choose to focus on one type of photography over another. These are some differences between editorial and commercial shoots:

Purpose

The primary difference between editorial and commercial shoots is the purpose of each. The reason a photographer does an editorial shoot is to tell a story with the images. The purpose of a commercial shoot is to frame a product in an artistic light, create marketing materials and promote services. Commercial shoots aim to explain a brand's story and raise awareness of the product or service. Though the purposes for each type of shoot vary, photographers usually receive compensation for both forms of photography.

Client

Another area in which commercial and editorial photography differ is the clientele. The client for commercial photography is usually a brand or company that wants to increase awareness of its products and services. It may also be an advertising agency or marketing firm that hires a photographer for a commercial shoot. The client for an editorial shoot is often a publication that wants to promote interesting content to sell more copies or editions of its print. For online publications, the company may book editorial shoots to create interesting content that attracts more page views and boosts advertising revenue.

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Style

When photographing for a commercial shoot, the photographer may have less creative license than with an editorial shoot. The purpose of a commercial shoot is to tell the story of the brand, and the photographer's personality may not be an important component. Many commercial shoots focus on a product or service and a sponsor to promote them. For example, a celebrity may complete a shoot promoting a soft drink. For editorial shoots, the artist is often an important component. Photographers for editorial pieces often receive mention in the publication and are integral parts of the storytelling process.

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Ownership

Who owns the photos from the shoot is another aspect that varies between commercial and editorial photography. For commercial shoots, the brand or company makes an agreement with the photographer that they own the content immediately before beginning the shoot. After editorial shoots, the photographer usually owns the rights to their photos and can sell or keep them if they want. Publications may make a deal with the photographer in which the publication has exclusive rights to show the photos for a brief period to protect from other publications gaining more attention with the same content.

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